Loblaw workers livid strike called off

An 11th-hour deal with unionized grocery workers prevented a strike at nine Loblaw-chain stores in southwestern Ontario.

An 11th-hour deal with unionized grocery workers prevented a strike at nine Loblaw-chain stores in southwestern Ontario.

The 1,800 workers had voted against a tentative agreement reached with the company on Oct.2.

They had planned to walk out at 12:01 a.m. Friday, but shortly before that the union leadership announced it had come to an understanding with Canada's largest grocery retailer.

The workers — at stores in Windsor-Essex, Chatham and Sarnia — are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 175 and 633.

Their decision to reject the contract offer separated them from 28,300 fellow Loblaw employees who voted to accept the agreement.

Compromise to keep pension

The compromise reached late Thursday will keep the workers on the job, at least for the next few days.

It calls for a re-vote on the original offer from Loblaw, and agrees that the union will postpone their strike action until a government-supervised vote takes place.

Loblaw agreed the offer on which members will vote will not be lessened in any way, and that the employee pension plan will remain.

Loblaw also promised to keep the nine stores operating using only unionized employees.

The news came as a surprise to many workers who showed up to picket at midnight.

"We're supposed to be at 12:01 deadline, and the union comes, at five minutes to, and tells us it's all taken care of? The union screwed us!" said one employee.

Many of the workers told CBC News that they believe the company was willing to compromise because it is Thanksgiving, one of the Loblaw's biggest weekends.

"This is when we have leverage to strike," said another employee at the Real Canadian Superstore on Dougall Avenue in Windsor.

"This is when we should be striking. You need to show that you have a backbone, because this company's walked all over us."

Anger with union leadership

Loblaw has requested the Ministry of Labour supervise a second vote for the 1,800 employees based on the same offer.

Under the Labour Relations Act, the company gets one chance at a re-vote before it has to return to the bargaining table.

No date has been set for the re-vote, but some workers told CBC News there is no need for one.

"Our vote should count …. The union doesn't have the right to cancel it on us, without our vote," one worker said.

"If the union wants, we'll put it to a vote right now, but the union doesn't want to hear us. They just want to go with what the company wants," he said.

Some said they felt their union is not listening to them.

"I gotta say, I don't feel at this point like the union's backing me. I'm paying for a union to back me. I want them to back me."